Will Muller ‘23
Conversations surrounding affirmative action have become increasingly inflammatory over the past few years, especially as the standards for college admission become more rigorous. The program itself is far from new, however, as Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) made affirmative action legal precedent more than 40 years ago. In the case, the court found that schools may have a “compelling interest” in diversifying student populations and race could be used as one of many factors in determining an applicant’s outcome. Now, however, the future of affirmative action hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court presides over Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina two cases that seek to overturn affirmative action processes. As depositions were being heard, President Rougeau reaffirmed the College’s commitment to diversity and spoke on how the school is getting involved.
Holy Cross, one of only a handful of schools that doesn’t screen for financial needs yet meets them 100%, has long been an inclusive and accepting option for students without the exorbitant resources needed to pay for private schools. The College has even received awards for their inclusivity: Holy Cross was designated a First-gen Forward Institution by the Center for First-generation Student Success just last year. This dedication to diversity has continued in recent years to include multiple partnerships and campaigns aimed at accepting more underserved students. However, in his email, President Rougeau relates that he shares the “deep concern that the Court may take away our ability” to “consider race as a factor in college admissions”.
The College isn’t simply sitting on the sidelines though– they’re actually involved in the case. Holy Cross joined Georgetown University’s amicus brief alongside 56 other Catholic colleges and universities, including Fordham University, University of Notre Dame, and Vilanova university. The amicus brief, among other things, suggests to the court that diversity is an essential facet of the rigorous and holistic education offered by Catholic Universities. Restricting diversity initiatives like affirmative action, then, jeopardizes the “student bodies whose diversity deepens student learning on campus and helps prepare graduates for leadership in an increasingly competitive, multicultural world”.
The current two cases are both led by Students for Fair Admissions, a conservative group of students and parents, and argue that white and Asian American applicants are given an unfair disadvantage compared to Black, Hispanic, and Native American applicants. The results of the case likely won’t be heard until next year, but Holy Cross is already bracing for its possible impact. President Rougeau stated that “Holy Cross will continue steadfastly on the path toward a diverse, equitable and inclusive community”, including “new and innovative ways to achieve our goals” if the Supreme Court overturns the precedent.
President Rougeau ended the message with a note on continued growth and hope, asserting that “we will continue to work together to advance this critical mission”.